Place two mothers together, and invariably the subject of reproduction will come up. We share all of the details of anything from labor and delivery, to post-op, and our choices for birth control, and ultimately sterilization. Women are the majority share holders when it comes to deciding about birth control, and so naturally, it should come as no surprise then that we would lead our husbands kicking and screaming to the Urologist for the ole snip, snip. But do we? Or do we just assume we are the sole responsibility for our family planning.
I had the pleasure of having a casual afternoon sit-down with one of the only fertility specialists in the south county, specializing in men’s reproductive health. Dr. Aaron Spitz is a board certified Urologist with a Fellowship specializing in male fertility, as well as a micro-surgeon performing delicate vasectomy reversal.
Upon meeting the particularly warm and gracious doctor, and his lovely wife Sarah and three sons, I knew, I was in the right place, to learn all there was to know about male fertility; specifically vasectomies and the reversal process. Friendly and unhurried Dr. Spitz shared with me a wealth of information on Vasectomies as well as the reversal process.
I was first curious as to why the good doctor chose Urology as his specialty. He shared with me, that while a medical student at Cornell, he found the Urologists to be amongst the happiest, as well as nicest doctors in a specialty. You may be thinking that is an odd way to choose a specialty, but if you go into medicine not knowing what you want practice, then choosing your specialty has to speak to you in some way. Turns out, Dr. Spitz chose right. He is very passionate about what he does, and his patients benefit wholly from that passion! He has trained at the best facilities in this field, in the country. Cornell, USC, and a Fellowship at Baylor.
As a father himself, Dr. Spitz finds great joy in helping men achieve their own dreams of becoming fathers, which led me to one of his former patients, who is a success story in that Dr. Spitz fully restored the ability to father children.
Before I get to ahead of myself in the story, consider that many men choose to have the vasectomy procedure because compared to the tying of the female tubes, it is easy, and rather trouble free. In and out in under 30 minutes, with instructions to use a bag of frozen peas if you have pain. The men I spoke to say it was in reality pretty easy, once the procedure was over. A few follow up appointments, (and those appointments are particularly important to keep) and you are birth control free for the rest of your life.
What is really fascinating, is the no-cut vasectomy, which Dr. Spitz considers to be the cadillac of the vasectomy procedure. You can see him perform one live here on the show The Doctors:
A dear friend of mine for nearly twenty years shared with me why he had his Vasectomy. Will is the doting father to two. Madeleine and Joseph. He said he chose the procedure over his wife having her tubes tied, because she was experiencing headaches that her doctor thought might be from birth control pills. Will stepped up and volunteered to end their child bearing years with a vasectomy. Although she wanted more children, he knew two was what they could comfortably afford, and he did not want what he called an “oops” baby. His recovery was also pretty easy. And he has not looked back. He and Susan enjoy twenty years of marriage, and a great life in the OC with their two kids, and are birth control free!
Dr. Donald Moore is a board certified Chiropractor specializing in humans and equine (horses). He is also a former patient of Dr. Spitz. When I met with Don, and his gorgeous wife Mendy, and daughter Caitlin, he shared with me that the vasectomy he had at the age of thirty, was so easy, he would have done it again in a minute. But that was at thirty. Married at the time, his wife had two children from a previous marriage, and together they had a son. Following the birth of his son, he figured they would be married forever, and their family of five was complete. So at that young age, he had a Vasectomy. He was offered the opportunity to freeze sperm “in case”, but he declined. Frozen sperm can last indefinitely, and it is offered as a back up plan when men choose to have a Vasectomy. Especially, if they are young like Don was.
One year later, Don was divorced and a single father. Fast forward some years, and he meets his soul mate Mendy. Set up by mutual friends, they were just meant to be. But there was a catch. He was no longer able to have children. He was particularly upfront with her in the beginning. That was not an issue for Mendy until marriage was discussed, and it was then decided; if they were going to get married, he would need a reversal. And so it was on a lovely August summer day that the two exchanged vows, and Mendy set out to find the right doctor to help her new husband. She found Dr. Spitz.
Considered a “Bonus” Mom to Don’s son Austin, they all decided that as a family, they would move forward to conceive a child and Austin was included in the first consultation with Dr. Spitz.
In that appointment, Dr. Spitz upon examination felt that although eleven years had passed, there was a good chance that he could restore Don’s fertility. Don was still young enough and in great physical health. Just months after, they were married, Don went through with the reversal. Thinking the procedure was as easy as a vasectomy was, the reversal should not be much more. But as a trained healer himself, Don knew better, and after a five and a half hour procedure, Dr. Spitz was confident that Don would be a success story.
As Don recovered on the couch for a week, he wondered often what the heck he had just put himself through. It was a tough procedure, no doubt. The hardest part were follow-up appointments to check his “swimmers.” Embarrassed by having to give a sample, he delayed the appointments. Turned out, his count was low. There are things that can be done for a low count such as taking the same Clomid that women take for infertility. But Don declined treatment, and chose to leave his ability to father another child, up to a higher power.
Fast-forward to just a year later in November of 2011 and a positive pregnancy test is on the horizon! So excited were they, that they even took Austin to appointments to see the baby on ultrasound and to be present when they found out they were having a girl! Caitlin Elizabeth joined their family on July 24, 2012. Now in his early forties, Don could not be happier at becoming a father the second time around! And following this interview a few weeks later, Don was happy to tell me that a third child was on the way!
Dr. Spitz and I discussed various options available when choosing to reverse a vasectomy. The procedures are not covered under insurance, so financial considerations are a necessary part of the decision making process. Not to mention the female participation in the matter.
The reversal is a delicate microsurgery in which the vas deferens is rejoined on both sides. That requires scar tissue to be removed and tubes rejoined in a precise manner. As with Don, this procedure can take hours. And Mendy will testify to the nail biting that goes on with such a long operation. When successful, a couple will have a baby the old fashioned way. Pregnancy can take up to a year, but sometimes Dr. Spitz will get a call from a very happy couple before the very first follow up appointment!
If a reversal is not possible, another option is sperm retrieval. But retrieval requires IVF for pregnancy and is a much higher risk to the mother, because of what her body has to go through to prepare. It is much more expensive and should be considered as a last option. Consideration must also be given to the mothers’ age. Ironically, as she gets older, it is harder to have a successful IVF procedure, but she can still get pregnant in the usual way. A reversal of the Vasectomy is the preferred method when a woman does not suffer from infertility issues.
In the quest to achieve pregnancy, or even to prevent pregnancy, we often focus solely on the woman. As a couple whether seeking to become pregnant, or to permanently prevent pregnancy, it is essential to weigh all of the options and those options include thinking about the men in our lives.
What a gem Dr. Spitz is. I went through years of infertility treatments, when it was all unchartered territory. And although there are advances made every single day in the field of reproductive medicine, it is still a pretty new frontier. If you and your husband were considering a vasectomy or reversal of one, I would give Dr. Spitz a call. He is right here in the OC at Orange Country Urology Associates in Laguna Hills. You will find eleven practicing Urologists, but only one that does what he does. And they really are the nicest of all of the specialties!
Authors Note: An abridged version of this article ran in the June 2013 issue of ParentingOC celebrating fathers Aug 1, 2013